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The Energy Innovation Task Force (EITF) is excited to announce that through community collaboration, the gas-fired peaker plant, originally planned for 2023, has been pushed out beyond 2032. “Delaying the need for any additional natural gas-fired generation in Buncombe County beyond 2032 is a big deal. The facility would have cost residential and business ratepayers more than $100 million paid for through higher electricity bills,” notes EITF member and Chair of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners Brownie Newman. The peaker plant would have been used to ensure electricity production during peak demand times such as the coldest winter days.
The EITF is a groundbreaking, public-private partnership comprised of Buncombe County, the City of Asheville, Duke Energy, local businesses, and community organizations that formed to seek alternatives to the proposed peaker plant. Duke Energy spokesman Jason Walls says the group’s efforts to reduce energy consumption was pivotal in the utility’s decision to cancel the peaker plant. “The efforts through the Blue Horizons Project, the community engagement outlet for the EITF, have significantly increased participation in Duke’s energy efficiency programs such as EnergyWise Home,” explains Walls. “The EITF has enabled greater adoption of peak-reduction programs, construction of transmission system enhancements, and greater awareness of the importance of managing energy use on the coldest and hottest days of the year.”
Duke Energy has removed the proposal for a new peaker plant from its Integrated Resource Plan, which means there are no plans to construct a peaker plant in the next 15 years. Nevertheless, the EITF aims to double down and continue its efforts. “The goal is to move our local energy systems away from fossil fuels and toward cleaner, more affordable sources of energy and to use energy as efficiently as possible. We still face the threat of climate change, and people want Asheville and Buncombe County be a leader in addressing it,” says EITF member and Asheville City Council member Julie Mayfield.
Part of that effort is gaining buy-in from residents, businesses, and nonprofits. To that end, the EITF is honoring two partners that have played a substantial role in reducing energy consumption in Buncombe County and beyond. The EITF is proud to present Mountain Housing Opportunities (MHO) and the Energy Savers Network (ESN) with the inaugural Energy Innovator awards for their outstanding work implementing energy saving efforts.
MHO is a private, nonprofit community development corporation whose mission is to build and improve homes, neighborhoods, communities, and lives, and build hope and dignity in the people we serve. Blue Horizons Project Coordinator Sophie Mullinax says MHO enrolled 600 of its residents in the Duke EnergyWise Home program. “EnergyWise Home specifically addresses our region's peak-energy demand problem by allowing Duke to cycle down heating and hot water appliances during the coldest winter mornings, which is when our demand spikes and the grid is maxed out,” says Mullinax. “This reduces strain on the grid when it's at its most stretched and directly contributes to the avoidance of peaker plants because it reduces peak demand.”
Prior to MHO’s participation, the EnergyWise program was thought of as an energy efficiency program for single-family homeowners. MHO is the first multi-family property manager in North Carolina to include its many apartments in the program and provides a model for how other multi-family property owners can make a big difference. This is especially important in the Asheville area with many new apartments being constructed or planned.
ESN is a volunteer-driven, weatherization nonprofit organization. It provides free weatherization services for low-income homes, primarily mobile homes. Its community-led efforts improve the health, safety, comfort, and energy efficiency of low-income and minority households by mobilizing volunteers, donors, and community partners to create real change in people’s lives. In 2018, ESN assisted more than 150 homes with efforts that are decreasing energy usage while also lowering utility bills.
More about the EITF and the Blue Horizons Project
The EITF’s goals are to promote energy-efficient programs that reduce peak-energy demand and to help guide our community to a cleaner, more resilient and affordable energy future for our citizens. The task force has two goals with the first objective now officially achieved:
- Avoid or delay the construction of an additional fossil fuel-powered combustion turbine electricity generation facility at the Asheville Plant site in 2023.
- Transition Western North Carolina to a cleaner, more affordable, and smarter energy future through community engagement and collaboration that is mutually beneficial to the community, customers, and Duke Energy.
To learn more about reducing energy consumption and lowering bills check out the following resources: